The Seven Silencing Reasons We Don’t Have Tough Conversations with Our Kids

Sex. Death. Porn. Divorce. Conversations like these often make us squirm in our seats– even before we have these talks with our kids. So what happens? We wait. Sometimes we don’t have them at all.

Why don’t we have these tough conversations?

  1. We don’t know what to say: These conversations don’t exactly role off the tongue. Where do we start? How do we explain it? We feel awkward and out-of-our element. Even if we speak with others for a living, conversations with our favorite little humans can challenge us in ways that co-workers, students or someone else’s kids never could.
  2. They are embarrassing, uncomfortable or emotionally charged: Discussions about sex, divorce or death aren’t easy. There is a lot of emotion behind them that come from our own hang-ups, experiences and hot-buttons– sometimes on both sides. It doesn’t help that the more awkward and emotional we feel about them, the more our children tend to react to and absorb those emotions.
  3. We are afraid that we won’t know all the answers: What if our kids ask us something that we simply don’t know how to answer? We worry about feeling unprepared.
  4. These conversations can feel taboo: Are we supposed to be talking about this stuff? After all, in many cases, our parents didn’t talk about it with us. These are words we usually don’t say or speak about in hushed tones– or at least only with our closest friends.
  5. We feel our kids won’t want to discuss them with us: We may think that the kids would rather do something– anything- rather than talking to us about these tough topics. They might think they are weird, embarrassing or totally off-the-charts gross.
  6. We don’t know when to have them: Are our children really old enough to hear this? How do I say it in a way that won’t scare them? How do I say it so that they understand? When do I start these conversations with my kids?
  7. We assume they already know: This is the ultimate way to bury our heads in the sand. Maybe they already know! Someone must have spoken to them about this stuff– maybe even you- and they are all set now because that talk is crossed off your list.

While there are countless reasons why we don’t want to have these key conversations with our kids– there are just as many reasons why we must. Our kids need us to be open and honest with them so that they know they can trust us, ask us anything, come to us when the sh*t hits the fan or when life gets confusing or uncomfortable. It’s time to get comfortable with getting uncomfortable– let’s have these talks and let’s have them often. Today is as good of a day as any.

Need help? We’ve got the tips and scripts you might need right now- I want to help! With the top experts in their area, my podcast, How to Talk to Kids about Anything, gives tips, scripts, stories and steps to make even the toughest conversations easier. More are added each week. And there is no topic we won’t cover.

We’re here– and you’ve got this!

10 Powerful Conversation Starters to Talk to Kids about Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship, showing respect for the rules, the participants and the spirit of competition, is an important powerful word all kids (and adults) must learn when competing with others. Given that May is Sportsmanship month for Powerful Words Character Development, this is a great time to discuss sportsmanship with your children.

How can you start the conversation about sportsmanship with your kids? Here are 10 Conversation Starters that will allow you to teach your kids about sportsmanship– as well as learn what they think, feel and believe about good sportsmanship.

Topics may range from what a good sport or bad sport means to how we can be gracious winners and refrain from being sore losers, to specific issues of cheating, boasting and failing in competition. What are some ways that your children can show great sportsmanship? Why do we need to follow these respect-based rules anyway? How can our actions at a game impact the spirit of competition?

We have all seen terrible sportsmanship- from what we see on TV to what we see on the fields right in front of our faces. What have you seen? What actions do you think are okay and which actions do you feel need to be addressed? When we stay silent, it could look like we approve. And interestingly, your kids may have a great deal to say about what they have seen and heard– it will be great to get their perspective.

What do your kids think? Do you see good or bad sportsmanship around you– and how can your family contribute to the positive end of sportsmanship? Hopefully you are talking about this topic in classes this month with all the scripts and tips from Powerful Words on sportsmanship- we’d love to hear about it!

Feel free to share- and discuss!

Warm regards,

PS A podcast on Sportsmanship will be coming out in the next month or so. Keep a look out and subscribe– so you can be the first to know! You can look right here on the podcast page or subscribe on iTunes (or whatever podcast site you listen through) and I know- you’ll love it!

Double the Fun! Two New Podcasts Out on Empathy and the Death of a Pet

Good morning! Aren’t Tuesdays fun?

For one thing, they aren’t Mondays—and for another, another episode of How to Talk to Kids about Anything is available! And you know what? THIS Tuesday is double the fun because we have TWO episodes available for you as an extra bit of love for you this week.

***First, we have How to Talk to Kids about Empathy and Entitlement by the amazing best-selling author & Today Show contributor, Dr. Michele Borba.

Based on her new book (softcover version out TODAY!), UnSelfie, Michele provides us with outstanding tips and scripts to raise empathetic, caring kids in an “all-about me” world. Michele has traveled widely and studied this topic for years—you don’t want to miss it!

“Once you realize you can nurture empathy, that our children are hardwired for it, you’ll look for dozens of just simple little daily moments to weave it in, take it up, and let your children know it matters. That’s how we produce a better generation of kids: A group of children who are unselfies, who think we, not me.” ~Dr. Michele Borba

***And, as a bonus, for anyone who has a pet or is suffering from pet-loss grief, we have How to Talk to Kids about the Death of a Pet. Best-selling author, Wendy Van de Poll, provides tips to help adults know how to help a child grieve when a pet dies as well as what to say to a child when a pet is sick and death is imminent. She also provides ways to help support a child in moving forward to engage in positive memories to help heal the grief.

The relationships that children have with animals are purely magical.” ~Wendy Van de Poll

You can get any of the podcasts on my website as well as on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcast delivery sites.

I can’t wait to hear what you think! And if you love this episode like I did, it would be so awesome to have you subscribe, rate and review it on iTunes so that others learn all about it. And please, feel free to share it!

Happy Listening!

How to Talk to Kids about Money: Interview with Neale Godfrey

How do we talk to kids about money and financial responsibility? Last week on How to Talk to Kids about Anything, we spoke to Neale Godfrey, author of 27 books that empower families and kids to take charge of their financial lives. (Access through iTunes, my website, or Stitcher, etc).

This episode focuses on talking to kids (and teaching kids) about money. Why is this important? Raising children who understand money is vital to their future financial health, independence and future fiscal behavior! Children and teens need to learn the value of money as well as how to budget, plan, earn, save, invest and give to causes and charities that mean something to them. Money management is a life skill that all children must learn to become responsible, successful adults.

“If you don’t teach your kids about money, their friends will do it…and they’re all bozos!” ~Neale Godfrey

I can’t wait to hear what you think and how you are going to apply it at home or in your school! And if you love this episode like I did, it would be so awesome to have you subscribe, rate and review it on iTunes so that others learn all about it. And please, feel free to share it!

Happy Listening!

 

Dear friend: Be sweet to yourself

Dear sweet friend,

We can often be so hard on ourselves. Perhaps our inner voice tells us we aren’t good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, thin enough, driven enough, and countless other “enoughs” we feel we don’t or can’t reach.

On this day, the 11th anniversary of my dear father’s death, I want you to know that while we can all improve in many ways, you are, indeed, enough. Just as you are.

My father had many faults, as we all do, but today I am remembering his generosity, his patience, his brilliance, his kindness and his love for family. I am thinking about his smile, his gentle eyes, his quiet way and his loving hugs.

Do you know what I am not thinking about? Where he fell short.

So today, be sweet to yourself. See the good in people and allow them to see the good in you. But above all, allow yourself to see the good in you. There is so much. I assure you, there is.

Warmest regards,

Why you MUST let your children fail

What is the gift of failure?

“Really Gift of Failure is…about fostering intrinsic motivation in kids—getting kids to want to do something for the sake of the thing itself.” ~Jessica Lahey, The Gift of Failure

When children don’t have the opportunity to fail when they are young and stakes are low, they don’t have the skills and resilience to bounce back when then they are older and the stakes are higher. They need to develop the systems and attitude that allow them to go after what they want and need without us, as parents and educators, taking over and doing it for them.

But how do we do it and what do we say to our kids about failure? We talk all about this topic on the new episode of How to Talk to Kids about the Gift of Failure with the fabulous best-selling author, Jessica Lahey! Get it on iTunes here or on our website here! Read more

Dr. Robyn on Nightline: What is Elizabeth Thomas’ state of mind at age 15?

I was on Nightline the other night, talking about Elizabeth Thomas and her possible state of mind after being found with her 50-year-old teacher, Tad Cummins.

When a young girl is feeling alone or misunderstood, an older, trusted teacher can be a welcome person in her life. Usually a teacher-student relationship can be a wonderful source of help but clearly this relationship crossed the line and became inappropriate and exploitive. Being a teacher is a unique position of power and intimacy in a child’s life- you are trusted and you have proximity.

Elizabeth is likely in crisis right now. She needs love and understanding from her family and those who love her. This was a cry for help and now, she needs to get the help she needs to become healthy and secure in her life. What was she trying to tell her family? What was going on right before she left? These issues must be addressed as they were the catalyst to the incident.

Nightline: 04/20/17: Missing Student Elizabeth Thomas Found, Teacher Arrested in California Watch Full Episode | 04/20/2017

How is she feeling? Nobody but Elizabeth knows for sure. But I would venture to guess that Elizabeth is likely feeling confused right now. This is someone she has trusted for a long time and likely believed was working in her best interest- this is not likely someone she saw as a criminal or inappropriate. So being taken away from him actually may feel like a loss for her- a loss of someone she trusted so much that she left her life with him. I imagine she is feeling many things right now so it’s time for some understanding and patience as she gets the help she needs.

*Now that child abuse charges have surfaced regarding Elizabeth Thomas’ mother, this adds and important layer to why Elizabeth left, why she got attached to her teacher in the first place, and why she seemed unhappy or reluctant to come back to her life in Tennessee. This girl needs patience, time and help– and it seems that her family will also need support in order for everyone to get back on track.

 

 

 

The 4th Trimester: Dr. Robyn Silverman on Good Morning America

After a woman has a baby, her body continues to change. What has been dubbed “the 4th trimester,” the 3 months after the birth of a child, can be a time when women can feel at odds with their bodies. Still, this is a time when woman should be celebrating their bodies– look at what they just did! No need to wait- you are beautiful now.

Good Morning America came to the house to talk with me about it– as an intro to their a makeover segment with a beautiful woman who had recently given birth to a daughter.


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The ABCs of De-Stressing: From Parenting to Work

Trying to cope with a toddler tantrum on an hour’s worth of sleep?

Battling with your teen about staying out to late?

Nobody said that parenting was going to be easy, but come on!

Don’t you wish that someone gave you the manual for parenting and stress management when your little bundle of joy was born?

Arm yourself from A to Z with 26 tips that will get you through the most trying days:

A- Accept the things you can not change: Single parenting? Step parenting? ADHD parenting? Just dealing with time crunches, making lunches, bunches and bunches of bills? It’s important to recognize that there are some things you can not control, surrender, move on.

B- Breathe: When things get hairy, scary, and you feel like you can barely hold on, take a step back, breathe, and be calm.

C- Count your blessings. Even though you have the weight of the world on you right now and feel far from compassionate for others who have things much worse than you do, there is some value in taking a moment to look at the things that are going right today, such as your child’s tantrum-free morning or how your spouse took out the trash…

D- Decompress. Believe it or not, there are many who do not know how to take a break. Some parents don’t even realize that it’s okay to take a break. Take time out to read a book, go out or simply hang out with family or friends. A happy parent is much more productive than a crabby one.

E- Eat nutritiously. We take care of everyone but ourselves…working, chauffeuring, monitoring homework, cooking and so on. Remember to eat breakfast and be sure to eat more than just a power bar for lunch! Nourish your body so you can nourish your mind so you won’t go crazy on top of everything else.

F- Focus on the big picture. Does it really matter that your child insists on wearing his Spiderman pajamas to the supermarket again? You’ve heard it before. Don’t sweat the small stuff (and yes, this is small). When choosing between Spidy and sanity, choose sanity.

G- Go to the gym. Do yoga. Step outside and take a long walk. Take a martial arts or dance class. Just get your body moving. Exercise will not only keep you fit and healthy to do the best parenting job you can (not to mention keep up with the kids) it will also help to clear your mind.

H- Hang up the phone. Sometimes we spend more time on the phone than with the kids, and then we wonder why they act up while we’re on the phone. Reserve some “family only” time so that the kids won’t feel so deprived of your attention and when you do need to converse on the phone, you’ll be able to without interruption.

I- Identify the kind of family you are aiming to be. Have you ever sat down with your family and actually discussed the kind of family you aim to be? Respectful? Kind? Supportive? Discuss those Powerful Words! Get your family together, discuss and create the vision as a team so everyone is on board and knows what they are trying to achieve.

J- Joke around. Don’t take everything so seriously! What makes your hair turn gray today will likely make your face turn beet red with laughter one day down the road.

K- Kiss, hug and show affection. Affection is such a simple thing that can make your family feel more secure as opposed to feeling like they need a therapist! Set the precedent for your family and show that you appreciate one another.

L- Listen to your family. Your children have great stories to tell. Your significant other has dreams about the future. When we listen, we expand our minds and catch all the subtleties that otherwise pass us by. Listening enables us to know what to say and when to say it.

M- Make time for family fun. Shuttling between extracurricular activities all the time? Remember that it’s important to take time out for family fun. Take a vacation, have a family game night, go for a bike ride together. It’s important to do something together and that everyone will enjoy.

N- Negotiate time for the couple. We all love spending time with the kids, but it is just as important for the couple to spend private time together. Rekindle your love every week, whether it’s going out to dinner alone or spending time cuddling while the kids are at Grandma’s house.

O- Open your mind to “the opposition.” You and your partner are a united force, however you may not always agree. Take time to listen to the points of the other person and come to a compromise.

P- Play with your friends. Go to a movie, play golf, go to lunch! Having some adult company, conversation and laughs will make the days more pleasant and manageable.

Q- Quiet your mind. Fretting over the past is as constructive as nailing a cube of Jello to the wall. When it’s time to relax, turn off your mind and let the day go.

R- Recruit some outside support. Need help reaching your personal and family goals? Enlist the help of a coach who will help you deal with present challenges and create action plans to make the most of your future.

S- Simplify your family’s schedule. There really is no need to commit your child to 40 different activities per week. One or two activities during the school year is okay. Really.

T- Teach the lessons you want them to know. Schools do not teach character development, parents do. When you teach your child about respect and teamwork, you get respect and teamwork.

U- Utilize your resources. Did the grandparents volunteer to baby-sit? Did your neighbor offer to tutor your kids in that math you don’t understand? Take them up on their offers. Reaching out for help enables us to collect ourselves and do the things we do well.

V- Value your time. Learn to say “no.” It’s important to be involved and volunteer your time to help with fundraisers and so on, but don’t overextend yourself. It takes time away from your family and robs you of your sanity.

W- Wipe the tears. Yours and theirs. Holding grudges or letting anger and misery simply fester under the surface builds resentment and uneasiness. This is a legacy you do not want to leave.

Y- Yearn to grow and learn. Just because you are a parent does not mean that you no longer can work on expanding your own mind and achieving your own goals. You may need to modify your ambition, but you can still express yourself, volunteer, take courses or even teach!

Z- Zzzzzzzz. Try to make up for that lost sleep. Parenting always seems easier when you are rested.

Have a Powerful (and stress-free) Week!

How One Child Changed My Perspective about Conversations with Kids

The summer before college, I was in my first year of assistant teaching at a Preschool/DayCare in Livingston NJ. I always loved playing with and working with children- I had been a babysitter for 6 years at that point. I felt pretty good about being the “big sister” to young kids- especially since I was the youngest at home. Teaching allowed me to impart knowledge and work with and talk with kids for several hours a day. But during this summer? I learned something from one child that changed my perspective on talking with children.

I will never forget 4-year-old, “Sasha Washa,” a daughter of a suit-wearing, well quaffed, beautifully-spoken woman who dropped Sasha off each morning before heading off to the company where she worked all day. Sasha had dark brown hair and inquisitive brown eyes that was always taking in what she sees. And I guess hears too. She clearly adopted the language that her mother used at work. Parents and other key adults, often provide the scripts that go into our brains and out our mouths as youngsters.

When Sasha’s friend wouldn’t let her play “house” with the group that was already given roles, she walked up to me and said something I will always remember;

“Excuse me, Miss Robyn? Can we take a meeting?”

A meeting. A meeting is when people share ideas, talk, listen, resolve, compromise and plan.

At that time, I think that my personal understanding of children, especially young ones, was that adults do the teaching. Children do the listening.

In this one sentence (and the countless “meetings” after with children I’ve worked with and my own nieces, nephews and children), I began to regard my interactions with children, even pre-school aged ones, as two-way conversations. It’s important to move from talking “at” children to talking “to” and “with” them.

We want to know:

  • What are thinking?
  • What are they feeling?
  • What do they know?
  • What do they want to know?
  • What do they want YOU to know?
  • What had they seen?
  • What had they heard?
  • What do they believe?

Conversations are shared. If we are talking “at” a child, they aren’t a participant, they are a target. And with targets, some information is absorbed, other bits bounce off. One voice is heard– although your voice may start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher “whaaa, whaaa, whaa, whaaa, whaa.” When someone is engaged in conversation, two voices, multiple opinions, many thoughts, and a host of feelings and beliefs meet and intertwine. We must create a partnership with our children– and in doing so we will all grow, learn and become better.

Of course, gone are days of seen but not heard. And yet, is this reflected in the way that we all talk with children? There are times when we all may find ourselves in a teaching role– but in every conversation, we also must be the student. Take meetings, don’t give soliloquies. You’ll find willing partners who will love to contribute and learn along side of you.